One of the foundations of my blog is that it’s a non-judgemental place where we can all gather and discuss the magnificent, yet messy, parts of motherhood. There is no place for judgment here. So when a blogger wrote to me and asked if she could write a piece for my blog about why mothers judge each other, I was very interested.
After reading her words, I thought you might want to read them too. So, here is Jennifer and her thoughts on judgment.
As mothers, most of us could do with less judgment and more support.
Why, then, do so many of us judge each other?
Lots to judge
Because there’s no perfect formula for raising great kids, there’s a lot of room for comparison and judgment.
Every day, we are faced with decisions on how to parent our children: what food to feed them; when and how to discipline them; what activities to support; when to let them go and when to reign them in – the list goes on.
Most of us struggle with these decisions. And yet, most of us also judge others’ decisions. We might find ourselves watching a mom at the grocery store giving into a child’s demand for candy, or hearing about another child’s tv-time, and disapproving. There are many ways the parenting judge can pop up.
What’s the harm?
Though our judgments are normally thoughts and not words, they can still show up in the form of a glance, unintended facial expression, a tone of voice, or lack of supportive words.
Beyond the effect on others, judgments can also hurt those who have them.
While they might make us feel superior in the moment – in order to judge another mother, we must think we know better than she does – in the long-run, judgments hurt our confidence and our connections.
Hurting our confidence
It’s somewhat ironic, but the more a mother judges other mothers, the less confident she likely is in her own parenting.
Where we are unhappy with or unsure of ourselves, we tend to hold up the microscope to others and think, “Well, at least I’m better than that.”
I coach clients on managing stress and building confidence, and I know from my research and practice that when you are truly confident in yourself, you don’t feel the need to judge others. If you feel good about yourself, then you are not worried about how you compare to others, and you don’t need to boost yourself up by putting others down.
What’s more, the judgment and low confidence can rub off on our children in subtle ways. Sometimes we don’t give them enough credit, but they can be quite attuned to our judgments and doubt.
Hurting our connections
Another way in which we harm ourselves with judgments is by separating ourselves from other mothers.
Let’s face it, parenting can be hard – sometimes, really hard. It can also feel isolating.
When we judge other mothers, rather than seeing that perhaps they are also struggling with this motherhood thing, we decide they are different and separate ourselves from them.
I’m thinking of Gwyneth Paltrow, and the feelings she often engenders for her parenting tips on meals involving lots of prep-time and specialty ingredients most children won’t eat (homemade vegetable sushi, anyone?) or expensive children’s clothing (a boy’s sweater is a bargain at $100). OK, I’m having a little fun here, but can you see how Gwyneth engenders judgment because her advice feels judgmental?!
Another parent’s perspective
No one is ever going to parent exactly as you do.
We aren’t just mothers following a particular parenting style or philosophy, we are also individuals. And individuals make different decisions based on a variety of factors including their own history, temperament, capabilities, and available resources.
Our children are individuals too, and parenting choices can also differ depending on the child.
Quite often we make judgments based on false assumptions.
I heard a story once from a meditation teacher who was on a subway sitting next to a father whose children were misbehaving. The father was doing nothing to control the children, and passengers were getting annoyed – why wasn’t the father doing anything? Well, when this teacher decided to speak with the father, he learned that the family had just left the hospital after their wife and mother had died. And just like that, one’s perspective completely changes.
Turning judgment around: 4 questions
The truth is, as parents we are all just doing our best. No one is perfect. We are going to make mistakes, we are going to make different choices, but in the end, we all love our children and want the best for them.
So instead of knocking ourselves and each other down, let’s bond together.
The next time you notice a judgment come up, stop. Now don’t judge yourself for having the judgment – that’s a double whammy! Just notice it, and ask yourself:
1. Do I really know the whole picture, or am I making assumptions?
2. Is there something in this parent’s situation that I can relate to?
3. How am I feeling about my own parenting right now? Am I being hard on myself?
4. Can I turn the judgment into empathy, compassion, or even some kind words?
If we can turn the negative judgment into something positive, we will be lighter, more confident, more connected, and better role models for our children.
What do you think?
How do you feel about mothers judging mothers? Have you been on the giving or receiving end lately? Let’s build some connection now by sharing this post or commenting.
And if you liked this post, check out my website or Facebook page and sign up to receive more free tips on managing stress and building confidence. I hope to connect again!
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Jennifer is a Certified Professional Coach, former lawyer, yogi, and mother of two girls. She coaches people on managing stress, building confidence and creating inside-out success in their careers and lives. She draws from her training as a coach, lawyer, yoga teacher, and meditator, as well as her learning in neuroscience. She’s particularly passionate about helping women de-stress and tap into their confidence and power. You can find Jennifer on her blog | Facebook | Twitter